Saturday, June 26, 2010

Doxology: A Pride Reflection

Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100.3)

Rest

The past two weeks have brought a deluge of new work—always a good thing for freelancers like me, but in this economy, a virtual outpouring of God’s goodness. While Straight-Friendly and its family never left my thoughts and prayers, time to write and post new reflections hasn’t been there. This concerned me, particularly with the annual Pride celebrations looming closer. I somehow assumed the Holy Spirit would guide me to texts or thoughts lighted with urgency to explore. Yet every prayer for direction led me back to Psalm 100.3. Each time, I heard it as a song of praise—a doxology:

Know that the Lord is God.

It is He Who made us

And we are His.

We are His people—

The sheep of His pasture.

I rushed to explore what this praise says to all of us, gay and straight, female and male, younger and older, etc., etc., etc. We should embrace inner pride as sacred praise for our unique making. God’s acceptance releases us from shame and stigmatization. Knowing Him as our Maker and Shepherd protects us from predatory prejudice and condemnation. The words flowed like water springing from a well—up to a point. Then, like the “Amen” that ends liturgical doxologies and returns us to our seats, I repeatedly heard:

Rest.

The tone and comfort were indubitably those of our Creator and Keeper, the One Who crafts us by hand, Who places us where He wills, Who tirelessly watches over us, Who authors our circumstances, and, most important, Who knows us better than we know ourselves. “Rest.” Silly me, I took it mean, “This can wait. Go to bed. People will understand.” I knew that, of course, but it was a much-needed reminder. Then, this morning I awoke to a keener awareness of what it actually meant, what we should hear in the Psalm 100.3 doxology, and how that affects our understanding of Pride’s personal, cultural, and spiritual relevance.

Confidence

In this weekend’s cacophony of parades and parties, speeches and songs, God is speaking rest to His children everywhere—people of every race, gender, and orientation. He reminds us GLBT Pride, like any effort promoting equality and justice, will end in frustration if we listen only to what we say and think. Our vision will remain myopic and clarity won’t fully emerge until we hear our Creator and Shepherd speak rest to our spirits.

Does this suggest we cease our fight for freedom, equality, and justice for oppressed peoples everywhere? Emphatically not. God’s Word explicitly commands us to care for and defend the downtrodden, dispossessed, and abused among us. Abandoning them constitutes sin. Yet we can rest. As we go forth with passionate conviction, demanding the end of all social, legal, and religious strife, we carry in our hearts undying confidence they will end. Every step of progress brings us closer to our Creator and Shepherd’s intentions for His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Deliverance

The enormous strides made by the GLBT global community and its allies generate untold reasons to rejoice. We have every right to take pride in our progress to date. In many ways, the GLBT movement’s success stands as a case study in deliverance. It’s taken less than a half-century of unyielding effort to free multitudes, within and beyond our community, from shackles of fear, hatred, ignorance, and complacence. Thus, when gay people and their allies speak of “pride,” they—we—must acknowledge it long ago surpassed its original meaning: defiance of shame. Gay Pride now encompasses all oppressed peoples and shines a light on the promise of deliverance. More than that, it proves deliverance is a process, a steady evolution that overtakes hearts and minds, not overturns courts and institutions. Laws and restrictions change when the people who make them change.

There can be no doubt changes we’ve witnessed and those we hope to see exceed our capability to bring about. Daniel 2.21 says, “He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” It’s foolish to allow pride to swell into hubris. Our deliverance thus far has not come about through persuasive powers or political savvy. It is the work of a Creator Who thrives on change—Who sacrificed His Son’s life to enable change—and a Shepherd Who delivers His people by changing hearts and minds that shape our seasons.

Though the task seems too great, we rest in knowing God’s purpose will be done. Though justice we seek appears too elusive to be grasped, we rest in belief He has it well in hand. Though hateful forces display their might to turn tides of opinion away from God, we rest in certainty they are no stronger than the weakest among those they oppress. Our Maker favors none of us above another. He is our God. We are His people. No matter where we side on any issue or cause, it is He Who has made us and we are His. He will do as He sees fit. We revel in deliverance we’ve experienced thus far as our guarantee full and final deliverance will come.

God Pride

Whether actively engaging in this weekend’s festivities or rejoicing with the GLBT community from afar, it’s incumbent on every believer to discern God Pride hidden at its core. This holds true for every event that exults in human diversity or promotes freedom from social oppression and inequality. Innate pride in who we are is founded on inherent awareness each of us has divinely sanctioned equal worth. From the greatest to least, the best to worst, we all reflect our Creator. Differences that challenge us are merely singular aspects of God’s self-image. By themselves, they’re inconsequential. Only when they're seen as pieces of a whole do they acquire importance. Pride in who we are ultimately reveals inescapable—in some cases, involuntary—God Pride. It confesses our God-given desire to identify with Something greater, richer, and far more beautiful than anything we can possibly be on our own. Know the Lord is God. Know He has made you. You belong to Him. You number among His people, the sheep of His pasture. Nothing can change this, or ever will. Rest.

At its core, Gay Pride, like any diversity celebration or effort aimed at social inclusion and equality, expresses God Pride—recognition He is our Maker and we are His people.

Personal Postscript: Two Years Down This Road

It was during Pride Weekend 2008, that Straight-Friendly launched. I can’t really recall what I expected, but I know it was nothing like what I found. The past two years have been the most precious and productive of my life.

I can’t allow this milestone to pass without expressing my profound gratitude to all of you who’ve traveled this road with me. You have been constant, lifting me, enlightening me, feeding my soul with your comments and emails, and welcoming me into your hearts. You have changed my life in extraordinary ways, always helping me grow stronger and wiser in this marvelous faith we share. My debts to you are more than I can possibly repay. Yet I know with complete assurance you will be rightfully rewarded and blessed beyond measure for all you’ve done. Thank you.

With all my love,

Tim

8 comments:

claire said...

Happy, happy Birthday, Straight-Friendly, where everyone feels welcome :-)

I had a thought about S-F when I read John O'Donohue's To be natural is to be holy; but it is very difficult to be natural. To be natural is to be at home with your own nature. If you are outside yourself, always reaching beyond yourself, you avoid the call of your own mystery.

Whatever is part of my nature, and I am to discover it and assume it, is holy... Wow...

Tim said...

Oh Claire, such joy you bring on this Pride Sunday! Where everyone feels welcome--I can think of no greater compliment for S-F. Thank you!

The O'Donohue quote floors me. It captures the soul of this place. With each new day, I'm more convinced self-acceptance--yielding to our true shape, as molded by our Maker--is the first essential step to knowing God's love and acceptance. He calls us to be "natural," for only then can we be honest with Him and ourselves.

It is a holy calling nested in mystery. Yet until we accept it by faith, we will never find rest.

Thank you so much for this. It brings great light to this topic and this day.

Blessings and much love,
Tim

TomCat said...

Happy Birthday, Tim.

This is a little unusual for me, because in Portland, the pride parade is always on Fathers Day. It passes by my front door. I step outside and wave to show my support.

Thank you for being here.

Tim said...

Thanks for the birthday wishes, Tom!

I thought about that after I published the post--Pride has spread across the calendar, and a wonderful thing that is. I wasn't aware Portland's Pride took place on Father's Day; that's a bold move, but an incisive one, as it brings families of all kinds together.

For me, the parade has always been as much about our straight allies, like you, as anything else. I've met so many wonderful, supportive people on the sidelines, whose commitment was every bit as fervent and heartfelt as their GLBT friends.

Unfortunately, I'm work-bound today and have to content myself with listening to the festivities through my window. And this year's parade is a biggie of sorts for Chicago--for the first time, the Cubs and the Blackhawks have entered floats. You can imagine what this symbolizes.

Tom, thank you for being here. Your friendship to me and Straight-Friendly is a true treasure.

Peace and joy,
Tim

Jan said...

Belated Happy Birthday, Tim!

Missy Francis said...

Has it really been two years? Congratulations, my friend!

As so often happens, Tim, I find your writing resonates with universal truths of hope and being true to oneself as God's creation.
God bless you in your ministry.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit!

Tim said...

Jan, thank you! It's such a joy to know you, to count you among S-F's friends and my sister in Christ. What love the Father has for us that He would draw us together on this sacred journey.

Missy--I know, where does the time go? It seems like yesterday I received a comment from someone named Missy that started, Hi, here via Shuck... You, Shuck, and Fred Anderson were the first readers to embrace S-F and I"ll always be grateful to you for constant care and support. Your contributions to shaping this place and guidance for this neophyte blogger cannot overstated. Thank you for everything you've done, and most of all for the friendship you've extended to me and all of us here.

Blessings to both of you. You fill my heart with goodness and light.
Tim

TomCat said...

You're most welcome, Tim. Today's third item at my place is on the religious rights reaction to a pride event. You might enjoy it.